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Programming will never be easy, since it forces otherwise sane people to think like computers. Folks with the imagination to do just that, will appreciate Real Software’s RealBasic 2.0.2 – a development environment for experienced programmers and novices alike. It often creates large applications, but it also makes creating user interfaces uncommonly easy.
The Basic language has evolved greatly since its invention. Like other modern dialects, RealBasic is object-oriented. This approach lends itself particularly well to building user interfaces (UIs), whose windows and menus are typically labour-intensive to create. Combining the organizational approach of object-oriented programming, with built-in support for the Mac’s standard UI elements, RealBasic makes creating an interface as simple as dragging-&-dropping elements from a tool bar into a window.
Once you’ve built your application’s UI, you attach the Basic code to each element within a Mac-like editing environment. Programmers used to keeping source code in lengthy text files may find this process disconcerting at first, but RealBasic’s approach makes sense for the non-professional – and takes only a little getting used to for pros. RealBasic also offers a wealth of Mac-specific features, including support for accessing serial ports, or sending and receiving data via TCP/IP.
If you need database access to Windows, or want to create software that runs under Windows, another £151 gets you RealBasic Professional. RealBasic Professional’s database-connectivity tools let you develop front ends to large databases, and also lets you create a Windows version of your application with almost no additional effort.
But, despite the program’s ease of use, neither version of RealBasic is perfect. For example, there’s no interactive way to examine the methods associated with classes, unless they’re described in the, admittedly abundant, online documentation. A bigger problem is the size of the final applications RealBasic creates – a simple application for 680x0 machines is around 250K, and the PowerPC-native version of the same application weighs in at 800K – more than three times the size of the 680x0 version. But, hard drives are growing as quickly as software, so it needn’t be a problem.
Experienced programmers, who would rather spend time working on under-the-hood functionality than the UI or database-access glue, will find RealBasic 2.0.2 worth its price. Beginners, and occasional programmers, will find RealBasic useful, for nearly the same reasons as the pros – the program takes on the error-prone task of getting the UI-coding just right, leaving them to concentrate on their software’s internals. The best option is to try it for yourself, which you can do at